Sunday, March 23, 2008

One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child program is kinda neat. Basically the goal is to make a laptop cheap enough to get into the hands of poor children so they can learn about computer, and learn with computers.

I have the pleasure of having one of these come into my shop. At first I was a little baffled, but the customer told me they had some kind of deal that basically charged her double for her laptop, and they gave one away in some other country.

After getting my hands on it I had some mixed opinions about it. First of all, it's very toy like. Beneath it's toy exterior is a Linux based operating system. Granted the interface for it was also toyish, but there was an easily accessible terminal. It was pretty easy to get online, once I started thinking the right way. At first the controls seamed complicated to my Windows oriented mind. After I figured out that moving the cursor to any corner of the screen brought up the menu options I was on the right track. My only networking complaint is that it can only connect to a wireless network; no ethernet port. Interestingly, the home page for the web browser has a nice easy interface for kids that will take them directly to educational things like a dictionary and encyclopedia. The encyclopedia link goes to Wikipedia; take that English 1302...not a real source my butt.

It also has some interesting kid-oriented programs. Tamtamjam, is a noise making program that I'm sure some talented kid could make sound like music, but I am tone def. It has games, a word processor, and a remarkably clear web cam; over all it is surprisingly functional.

The only thing I didn't get to try is networking it to a desktop. I was curious to see if I could transfer files to and from it, but I didn't really have time to play around on it too much. My only other minor complaint is the keyboard. It's basically a tiny version of those rubber "indestructible" roll up keyboards. Functional, but very hard to type with any speed on (this is coming from a guy who types slow as it is).

Over all, it is a rather complete computer. Perfect for perusing the web and having children learn new things. Exactly what it was designed for. It could be considered a great engineering success.

Anyone interesting in getting their own (probably for your kids) could start at the OLPC site. It is a little difficult to find where to purchase one, but expect to pay more than the $100 or so they cost to make (they're trying to help people duh). I couldn't find much information about the "Give one get one" program. The customer told me it took a long time for her to get it. I can only assume they may have stopped it because too many people were doing it.


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